For Harry, the news came like a strong tugging feeling in the middle of the night, strong enough to wake him from a strong sleep. It only took him a few moments to understand what was happening.
“Oh, no,” said Harry. “I’m not going anywhere, I don’t care what’s happened. And no one’s going to make me.”
“Sh’ up, Harry,” mumbled Seamus, rolling over in his bed.
Harry did shut up, to avoid waking the other boys in his dormitory, but went on to think very hard.
It’s not my responsibility, Harry thought. I’ve got enough to be going on with, thank you very much. Find someone else.
The problem was, the target of Harry’s thoughts didn’t appear to be listening...
The Stand In
The first Crowley knew of what was going on was a rumour. He didn’t interact with other demons very often, partly because of lack of opportunity, and partly because of personal preference. Every now and again, however, he would check in with the other demons stationed (rather more temporarily than Crowley) on Earth, just to make sure he wasn’t kept out of the loop.
It was Forneus (a demon of about the same rank as Crowley, temporarily on Earth to tempt one particular, promising young soul into sin and eternal damnation) who clued him in.
“The higher-ups are trying to keep it secret, but the word is that our lord has left Hell,” said Forneus, with his usual air of self-importance.
“Well, it’s not the first time,” said Crowley, who had once or twice had the misfortune to be visited by Lucifer in person, when the Prince of Hell was on one of his periodic trips to Earth. Crowley would still be having nightmares, if demons did that sort of thing. “What’s the big deal?”
But Forneus shook his head.
“No, no, I don’t mean for one of his little visits. He’s left. Permanently,” said Forneus. “Shut up shop, and skedaddled.”
Crowley stared at him.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Damned right I’m serious.” Forneus shook his head. “He hasn’t been gone long, but it’s already starting to cause trouble. The Dukes have already begun arguing over who’s going to take over, or so I heard.”
Crowley paled a little at the thought. The various Dukes of Hell were the most powerful demons in existence, below only Lucifer in power. The Devil’s power usually held them in check, making sure that they remained grudgingly cooperative with one another, but if he wasn’t there to keep them in line...
Here Crowley’s unfortunately well-developed imagination took over, showing him nightmarish visions of civil war in Hell. Without Lucifer holding the group together, the Dukes of Hell would soon turn to in-fighting, bickering amongst themselves for the top position in the hierarchy. And that, Crowley thought, spelled disaster.
Even if one of the Dukes came out on top, and became the new Prince of Hell, the regime change would undoubtedly spell bad news for Crowley. Lucifer had always favoured a hands-off approach to evil, wherein demons influenced humans to do evil deeds, rather than go around doing evil deeds themselves. Additionally, Lucifer had always seen the value of having a demon permanently posted to Earth, to influence matters there and keep an eye on things – he was a big-picture bloke, was Lucifer, and understood the importance of playing the long game. But his subordinates? Most demons didn’t understand subtlety, or imagination... nor, Crowley suspected, the importance of Crowley’s position. If someone else took over, Crowley could well find himself ordered back to Hell, to the dull monotony of torturing evil souls and constantly jockeying for a higher position in Hell’s hierarchy.
Crowley had never really lived in Hell. Oh, he’d been there a bunch of times, usually when his current corporation had worn out and died and needed to be replaced, and occasionally to clarify some of the never-ending paperwork he’d submitted, but Crowley had never been stuck there. In Hell, there were no sushi restaurants, no fine wine, no tailored suits, nor any advanced technology of any kind. It might as well have been the Stone Age there – except that even the Stone Age had ended eventually. Hell, on the other hand, would go on forever.
“I see you understand the gravity of the situation,” said Forneus, taking in the look of poorly-concealed horror on Crowley’s face. He leaned in slightly, speaking in a low voice. “There is, however, an alternative.”
“What alternative?” asked Crowley bleakly. Forneus gave him an impatient look.
“The Antichrist, of course.”
Crowley connected the dots instantly. The Antichrist had more than enough power to rule Hell, and probably the will to do it, too. Best of all, as Lucifer’s direct offspring, no one could possibly argue that he had no right to inherit the title of Prince of Hell. Some demons would probably take offence at being reigned over by a fourteen year old boy, but the Antichrist would deal with them easily enough.
But Crowley had been sharing a flat with Harry Potter since the kid was eleven, and Crowley knew full well that there was no way Harry could be coerced, bribed, or flattered into taking control of Hell. Earth was his home, and his kingdom; and there was no way he would want to give it up so that he could spend all his time pulling rank on a bunch of badly-behaved demons.
“That’s never going to work,” said Crowley, shaking his head. “The kid’s too fond of Earth.”
“Perhaps you could... persuade him?” Forneus asked delicately.
“Oh no,” said Crowley. “I’m not stupid enough to even try. Send some other bastard to do it, if that’s your plan. Not me.”
Forneus gave a long-suffering sigh.
“Fine. Although, if the Antichrist is really as fond of Earth as you think, I believe he’ll change his mind sooner or later. Sooner, if someone like Beelzebub gets into power. After all, it won’t take long for Hell to start meddling with humans affairs – and if the Antichrist really cares for Earth, then he won’t stand for that.”
Crowley just scowled at Forneus.
“Which one of the Dukes sent you?” Crowley asked, instead of commenting, because this had the signs of an intervention all over it.
Forneus smiled a little superior smile that made Crowley want to punch him, just on principle.
“That would be telling,” Forneus said.
They didn’t talk for much longer after that. Crowley made his excuses and left, his mind whirling with perturbed thoughts.
Much as Crowley hated to admit it, it looked like he was going to need to tell Harry what was going on in Hell – otherwise, if Harry found out later on that Crowley had known about the kerfuffle and hadn’t told him, there would be trouble.
Not that there wouldn’t be trouble anyway, Crowley thought gloomily. Harry was generally a sunny-tempered boy, but threaten the Earth or Harry’s presence there... Well. It usually ended badly for everyone involved.
Instead of heading back to his apartment, Crowley found himself outside Aziraphale’s bookshop. He didn’t go there all that often; he and the angel were more likely to meet for lunch or differ at the Ritz, or feed the ducks in St James Park. But in Crowley’s agitated state, what he really needed was to talk to a friend over a good bottle of wine, and the only good friend he had, really, was Aziraphale.
So Crowley walked into the bookstore, the bell on the door jingling with his entrance, and waited.
Aziraphale showed up a moment later, ready to scare off any potential customers, but relaxed when he saw Crowley. Then he frowned, obviously reading Crowley’s body language.
“Is something wrong, Crowley?”
“Lucifer’s left Hell,” Crowley said bluntly. “For good.”
Aziraphale only looked confused, so Crowley recounted his conversation with Forneus. At the end of it, Azirphale said, “My dear, I think you need a drink.”
Crowley fervently agreed, and the two went into the back room and broke out the glasses and a nice bottle of red wine.
When both of them were properly fortified, Aziraphale said shrewdly, “You’re trying to think how to break it to Harry, aren’t you?”
“He won’t like it,” said Crowley, with conviction. “Who would? Ruling over a bunch of back-stabbing, bickering, vicious, unimaginative thugs... hell, I can see why Lucifer left in the first place.”
“Why did he leave?” Aziraphale asked, his expression curious.
“Beats me. Forneus didn’t say,” said Crowley, with a shrug. “For all we know, maybe the failed apocalypse got him thinking about things. There’s no way to know, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to.”
Aziraphale absorbed this.
“Does Harry still have the mobile phone you bought him?”
“Oh yeah,” said Crowley. “And of course, being him, it works even in the middle of Hogwarts.”
“Then perhaps you should ring him?” Aziraphale suggested.
Crowley gave a vaguely disconsolate nod.
“Suppose I’d better.” Then he brightened suddenly, an idea occurring to him. He turned crafty eyes on Aziraphale.
“And don’t think you can fob it off on me,” said Aziraphale, who understood that look perfectly well. “You’re the one who found this out, so you should be the one to tell Harry.”
Aziraphale looked at him.
Grumbling, Crowley pulled out his phone – the latest model, released earlier that year – and dialled Harry’s number. It didn’t take long for Harry to answer.
“What?” Harry sounded like he was in a bad mood.
“Er...” said Crowley. Aziraphale nudged him pointedly.
“This is about my father, isn’t it?” asked Harry, with that uncanny perspicacity he sometimes showed. “And him leaving Hell, and all.”
“Um, yes,” said Crowley. “How did you know?”
“Bloody firmament of Hell’s been trying to get me to become the new Prince of Hell.” Harry sounded distinctly grumpy. “It’s been tugging at me since last night, and it hasn’t let up once.”
“Right,” said Crowley. That seemed the safest response. “So you’re not, er, going to take over?”
“Of course not,” said Harry. “Why should I?”
“Crowley.” There was a note of command in Harry’s tone.
“Well, it’s only that, you know, if someone else takes over, they might not be content to leave Earth alone,” said Crowley, and gulped.
There was a chilly silence on the other end of the phone. Crowley sat, unnaturally tense, as he waited for a response.
“You’re talking about demons messing people about,” said Harry at last. His voice was colder than usual.
“To put it bluntly, yes,” said Crowley, and waited.
Harry mumbled something irritated and unintelligible into the phone, and hung up. Crowley stared at his phone, just in case Harry rang back, but it remained silent.
“Well, that’s that done,” said Crowley. Slowly, he began to relax.
His phone rang suddenly, and Crowley tensed up again. He answered the phone with trepidation.
“Crowley here,” he said reluctantly.
“You’re the Serpent of Eden,” said Harry. “Can’t you take over?”
Crowley choked on air.
“Crowley, are you alright?” Aziraphale inquired in concern. Crowley waved him off.
“First of all,” said Crowley, when he could speak again, “No. Even if there was any way I could stand up to the assembled Dukes of Hell, a thousand times no. And secondly, there’s not a chance I could hold that position, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t, because I’m not an idiot.”
“If I made them obey you–” Harry began, far too thoughtfully, but Crowley was having none of that.
“Then I’d be your puppet ruler, is that it?” he snapped into the phone. There was a faintly abashed silence on the other end. “Look, I sympathise, I really do, but there’s no way in Hell you’re putting me in charge.”
“I suppose,” said Harry, and his tone was full of unvoiced apology.
“Just – keep me posted, will you?” asked Crowley. “I don’t want the appointment of a new Prince of Hell to come as a sudden nasty surprise.”
“Will do,” said Harry. “And if they try to pack you off to Hell, tell me.”
“I will,” Crowley agreed. Harry hung up a second time, but this time he didn’t ring back.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” asked Aziraphale brightly. Crowley narrowed his eyes at the angel.
“Shut up, and pass me that bottle,” was all he said.
Back at Hogwarts, Harry glared at his phone, before throwing himself back on his four-poster bed with an annoyed groan. The tugging hadn’t stopped – had grown even stronger, in fact – and Harry wasn’t sure what to do about it. He hadn’t derailed the Apocalypse and defied all of Heaven and Hell three years ago just so he could take his father’s place down in Hell.
“Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven,” hissed Astaroth, from where he was lying at the foot of Harry’s bed.
“I’d rather do neither,” Harry retorted, without moving. “You think I want to spend time in Hell? Even if it weren’t full of demons, who are nasty by definition, they’ve just introduced muzak down there.”
“You could change things,” suggested Astaroth.
“I have enough on my plate just looking after Earth,” said Harry. “Almost a new world war last week, you know. Managing that sort of thing takes a lot of effort, making sure no one does anything stupid under pressure.”
Astaroth had nothing to say to that.
“And here I was, looking forward to watching the Tri-Wizard Tournament and having nothing important to do,” he said darkly.
“That’s life for you,” said Astaroth, unmoved by Harry’s ire.
“Suppose it is,” said Harry. “You’d think I’d only have to deal with one potentially world-ending crisis, though.”
“It’s the downside of having so much power, that’s what,” said Astaroth. “You can’t complain, though. How often do you use your powers?”
Harry shrugged, a little sullenly.
“Well, there you go, then,” said Astaroth. “Can’t go around using your powers all the time, and then complain that there’re responsibilities to go with them.”
“I know – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ ,” grumbled Harry, who had read his share of comic books. “But it wouldn’t even be a problem if my father wasn’t shirking his responsibilities.”
“Where’d he go, anyway?” asked Astaroth. “I mean, somewhere on Earth, obviously – I can’t see him returning to Heaven. They wouldn’t let him past the gates, for a start. But where on Earth?”
Harry concentrated for a moment. Knowledge unfurled in his brain.
There was a short pause as Harry absorbed what his powers had told him.
“Apparently,” said Harry slowly, and a little disbelievingly, “he’s opened a nightclub in London.”
It took Astaroth a moment to respond to respond.
“Well, that’s unexpected,” he said at length. “What’s he want to do that for?”
“You think I know?” asked Harry. “It’s a much a mystery to me as it is to you.”
At this point their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Ron.
“Hermione wants to know why you missed class,” he told Harry bluntly.
“Tell her I had a headache,” said Harry. “Besides, it’s not like anyone noticed I was gone, except for you two.”
“Messing about with your magic, again?” asked Ron knowingly. “Hermione seemed pretty peeved about that too, actually. Said you shouldn’t be using magic to influence people.”
This was an ongoing argument Harry was having with Hermione, who had twigged way back in Harry’s first year that he could somehow use his magic to make people behave in certain ways. Harry tried these days not to mess people about too much – he really did – but sometimes, when meddling was only a thought away, the temptation proved too strong for him to resist. Especially when he wasn’t feeling at his best, like today.
“Come on, mate,” said Ron. “Best get it over with. Otherwise the pressure will build up and Hermione’ll explode some other time, and it’ll be that much worse.”
Ron was right, Harry knew. So, with a groan, Harry sat up, and got to his feet, grabbing the books and things he needed for class, doing the best to ignore the tugging feeling beneath his breastbone, and followed Ron out of the dormitory and down the stairs into the Gryffindor common room.
Hermione was waiting for them, looking impatient and annoyed, and ready to rip into Harry.
“Harry, you can’t just go using magic on people like that –” she began, only to stop as she got a good look at Harry’s face. “Are you alright? You’re awfully pale.”
“Headache,” said Harry.
“Oh.” Hermione looked a little less annoyed, concern overriding her irritation. “Have you seen Madam Pomfrey?”
“No point,” said Harry. “Hell is calling me.”
Hermione only rolled her eyes. As far as she was concerned, Harry’s occasional references to being the Antichrist were merely a running joke, one that she considered to be in poor taste. Harry wasn’t sure whether Ron believed him either, but Ron was at least willing to play along, whether he believed Harry or not.
Harry had considered showing them both his wings and the sword he’d learned to materialise at will, but so far had held back from doing so, afraid that his friends might start treating him like the Dursleys had if they came to believe the truth of his supernatural origins. Aziraphale had tried to talk him out of this fear – after all, Harry could trust his friends with everything else, so why not this? But Harry’s dread was real, and he didn’t dare destroy his friends’ belief that the whole Antichrist thing was nothing more than a joke. The only one of his friends he knew for certain believed he was the Antichrist was Luna Lovegood, who had recognised that he was a being of power in their very first meeting.
“Whatever the reason, I’m sure Madam Pomfrey could help,” Hermione argued, as the three of them made their way down from Gryffindor Tower – Hermione on her way to her Arithmancy class, and Harry and Ron to Divination. Harry had considered doing Arithmancy, but it was mostly predicting the future with numbers, which seemed a bit too finicky and boring to Harry. He liked Divination better: yes, Professor Trelawney had a tendency to shriek whenever she saw him, and proclaim him The Son of Perdition to the entire class, but on the other hand, at least Divination was interesting.
Whether Trelawney liked it or not, Harry was probably the student with the greatest aptitude for her class: he could read tea leaves and tarot cards with uncanny accuracy and detail, while every time he picked up a crystal ball, otherworldly sights had a habit of appearing in it (To be fair, these otherworldly sights were usually either Crowley or Aziraphale, and were therefore not very exciting otherworldly sights; but Harry liked to check up on his guardians while he was away at school, and make sure they were both doing okay).
“Just let it go, Hermione,” Ron advised. “You know he’s not going to go.”
Hermione huffed a little bit, but they’d almost reached the set of corridors where she went left and Harry and Ron went right, and so she didn’t bother to argue.
“Fine,” said Hermione. “But if you’re not feeling better by this evening, I think you should at least consider going to someone about your headache.”
Harry thought about telling her again that there was no point, but Hermione looked so earnest and concerned that he couldn’t bring himself to.
“Alright, if it isn’t any better by tonight, I’ll go talk to someone,” Harry said, unwillingly.
Hermione smiled at him approvingly, and the three friends said their goodbyes as Hermione went off down one corridor, and Harry and Ron down another.
It didn’t take long to get to the Divination classroom. Harry climbed up the ladder into the round, dimly-lit room, and for once decided to make sure that Trelawney didn’t notice his presence among the other students. Instead he took his seat quietly, without making a fuss, and slumped over his desk.
Ron eyed him sympathetically.
“What’s wrong with Harry?” Neville whispered, from Harry’s left.
“Headache,” Ron whispered back, and Neville nodded.
“It’s the incense Trelawney uses,” he told Harry and Ron knowledgably. “Makes me sneeze sometimes. I’m not surprised it’s given you a headache.”
At this point, Harry was almost regretting using a headache as his excuse for feeling awful; everyone seemed to want to talk to him about it, instead of leaving him alone. So he ignored Neville, resting his head on his arms, and waiting for Trelawney to begin the class.
They were using crystal balls again today, one of the more difficult forms of divination. It took, Trelawney said, a determined and yet enlightened mind, possessed with only the strongest form of the Sight, to see visions within a crystal ball. Most of the class hadn’t yet progressed from seeing vague mist.
Harry knew he had Second Sight, certainly, but whether it was the kind of Second Sight Trelawney meant when she talked about the Sight was something he was less sure of. Harry was inclined to think that his form of the Sight was altogether different from that seen in ordinary witches and wizards; not necessarily a higher form of the Sight, but perhaps a broader one.
As the class stared into their crystal balls, and Ron noted morosely that all he could see was his own reflection, Harry gazed at his own crystal ball, and let his mind wander a little. He’d only just heard from Crowley, so the chances were that Crowley was fine, and Harry didn’t need to check in on him or Aziraphale.
The tugging was still going on, as it had been since the night before, and Harry found himself thinking about the new development it signified. What had possessed Lucifer to leave Hell and open a nightclub instead, Harry couldn’t imagine. He wondered what the nightclub was like.
The vision in the crystal ball in front of Harry abruptly clarified, and Harry found himself staring downwards, at the outside of what was clearly a trendy nightclub. The nightclub was closed, for the moment – it was, after all, the middle of the afternoon, long before any nightclub would open to the public for the evening – but the facade was done in black and red, and the sign above the club read, PANDEMONIUM.
Harry snorted in spite of himself. Ron leaned over.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Nightclub in London,” Harry said briefly. The vision of the nightclub winked out.
“Why’s it showing you that?” Ron wondered aloud. Harry just shrugged, and didn’t offer any explanation, and Ron went back to contemplating his own crystal ball.
As soon as Ron was no longer looking, Harry concentrated, and the vision of the nightclub wavered back into view.
Harry stared at it for a long moment. The tugging from Hell wasn’t growing any less, which probably meant that little though Harry liked the idea, he was going to need to do something about it.
And Harry had promised Hermione that he’d see someone if his ‘headache’ didn’t let up. He just hadn’t specified who.
With a sigh, Harry let the crystal ball return to its usual empty state, and slumped back down over his desk.
He hoped, although he knew the chances were slim, that the tugging stopped by the time he finished dinner. Otherwise, Harry was going on an excursion that he didn’t really want to make.
To Harry’s disappointment, if not his surprise, the tugging feeling was still happening by the time he finished dinner. Harry returned to the common room with the other Gryffindors, and read for a little while, before saying good night to his friends and going up to the dormitory. Dean was already there, sitting on his bed and drawing something in his sketchbook, taking advantage of the quiet to concentrate on his artwork. Harry gave him a friendly nod, before climbing onto his bed and closing the curtains as though planning to go to bed. Harry, however, had quite different plans.
A moment later, Harry’s robes were gone, replaced by a set of black trousers and a black dress shirt. Another moment later, and Harry was no longer in bed.
Instead, he was standing on a street corner, watching the traffic go by. Harry turned away from the busy road, and began walking down the sidewalk. It was a little early for the nightlife to be active, but already, there was a line stretching out in front of Harry’s destination, full of people eager to see what the new nightclub was like.
Harry wandered up towards the door, only to be stopped by the bouncer.
“Hey, no kids allowed,” said the bouncer roughly, pushing Harry back a step.
Harry didn’t argue. He just tipped his head back, meeting the bouncer’s eyes, and looked at him.
The bouncer – a low-ranking demon – paled instantly as he got a good glimpse of Harry’s unnaturally green eyes. He let go of Harry in a hurry.
“You can go in! I didn’t realise it was you. Just don’t tell the boss I laid a hand on you!”
“No problem,” said Harry politely, and continued into the nightclub.
A couple of concerned people called out to him, asking what he was doing there. Everyone else was too busy drinking or dancing.
“I’m looking for my father,” Harry told them, and pushed past them before they could try and stop him.
There was a raised dais at the back of the club with several fashionable looking black armchairs and sofas strewn across it. Lounging on one of these couches was a man – at least, he looked like a man – in a very smart suit, wearing a body with blonde hair, and green eyes the same shade as Harry’s. He looked rather a lot like Harry, actually, aside from the different hair colour.
Harry stepped up onto the dais, and stopped, while the man on the couch eyed him with a look of surprise.
“Harry Potter,” said the Devil, and his face crinkled into a wicked smile. “I wasn’t expecting to see you. Come to pay me a visit?”
“Funny you should say you weren’t expecting me,” said Harry, instead of answering the question. “Considering.”
“Considering the fact that I left Hell, you mean?” asked Lucifer. “Well, I understand that it’s a big change, but I don’t see what that has to do with you.”
“You don’t see what that has to do with me?” Harry repeated incredulously. “Are you joking? I’m your heir, that’s what it has to do with me! The firmament of Hell is trying to make me the new Prince of Hell!”
Lucifer’s eyes widened, and for a moment, Harry entertained the hope that Lucifer was seeing the gravity of the situation. But then the Devil threw back his head and laughed uproariously.
Harry glared at him.
“It’s not funny! I don’t want to be the Prince of Hell!”
“But think about it!” Lucifer’s voice was far too amused. “A fourteen year old, ruling all of Perdition. It would be hilarious. The demons wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.”
Harry continued to glare.
“Oh, come on,” said the Devil. “Lighten up a little. Here, come sit down.” He gestured to the couch opposite his own.
Harry reluctantly sat down.
“Can’t you take Hell back?” he asked. “I really don’t want to rule Hell. I’ve got Earth.”
“Look at it this way – by becoming the new Prince of Hell, you get the best of both worlds,” suggested Lucifer. “I mean, I’m not really sure what counts as the best of Hell, given that it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but I’m sure you could find something. Probably.”
Harry slumped a little.
“But you have a responsibility!” he protested. “You have to return to Hell!”
“Not a chance,” said the Devil cheerfully. “Besides, you’re a fine one to talk about responsibility, given your stunt with the apocalypse-that-wasn’t. It got me thinking. Why should I stay in Hell, which is more of a chore than anything, these days? Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting in the beginning, but that was six thousand years ago. Six thousand years of doing anything is enough to depress you in the end – believe me, I know.”
Lucifer paused to take a sip from his cocktail glass.
“And Hell really isn’t that interesting – not like Earth. So I decided to retire, and here I am.”
Harry stared at him, his heart sinking. The Devil sounded like he’d made up his mind, and there was nothing, Harry knew, that he could do to change it.
“What am I supposed to do?” asked Harry. “Hell won’t stop tugging at me.”
Lucifer leaned forward.
“So go down there, take a look around,” he told Harry patiently. “Maybe you’ll find yourself more at home there than you think. And if not... well, you don’t have to live there. Just make sure everything runs smoothly. That’s all.”
Harry sighed, deeply unsatisfied with Lucifer’s answer.
“Fine,” he said darkly. “I’ll look around. But I’m not promising anything.”
“Of course not,” said Lucifer. “Never make promises, if you can. More trouble than they’re worth.”
“Just one question,” said Harry. “Why a nightclub?”
Lucifer grinned. His grin looked remarkably like Harry’s, at his most mischievous.
“I might as well tell you,” he said conspiratorially. “As long as you don’t spread it around.”
“Tell me,” Harry demanded.
“I got the idea from a comic book,” he admitted. “The nightclub was in LA in the comic, not London, but I figured, hey, what’s the difference?”
“A comic book?” Harry repeated, incredulous. “You read comics?”
Lucifer only shrugged, smiling.
“They’re a perfectly valid art form,” he said. “And nice and subversive, a lot of the time. Are you really surprised that I like them?”
“Suppose I shouldn’t be, when you put it like that,” Harry conceded. “Still. The way Crowley tells it, Hell’s more traditional than that. Thought you would be, too.”
“Ah, Crowley,” said the Devil musingly. “How is the old serpent?”
“Perfectly fine,” said Harry, “and he’d best stay that way.”
“Oh, relax,” said Lucifer, with a snort. “I’ve left Hell, remember? Disobedience and mutiny is no longer my problem. It’s yours.” He laughed a little. “I can’t wait to see how that goes.”
“You’re no help at all,” Harry grumbled.
“Did you expect me to be?” Lucifer inquired, looking genuinely curious. “Because most people wouldn’t describe me as ‘helpful.’ Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m fairly certain my uncooperativeness is legendary.”
“Oh, cheer up,” the Devil recommended. “It won’t be so bad. You’re young. You’ll find something useful to do with Hell, I guarantee it, even if all you do is rearrange the bureaucracy, or something. Things could do with a little shaking up down there, and you,” Lucifer’s smile was amused again, “are definitely the person for the job. So have at it – do what you like. I shan’t care.”
Harry scowled at him.
“You’re a terrible person,” said Harry.
“I know,” said the Devil, sounding pleased. “It’s the source of my charm.”
Harry stood up, and without another word, stomped away down off the dais and pushed through the crowds of people, and stepped through the nightclub doorway, out into the open air.
Hell was still tugging at Harry, and Harry was fully fed up with it. With everything, really, but the tugging most of all.
“Blasted fallen angel,” he muttered, as he stomped away from the nightclub. “Should have known he’d be no help at all.”
“Harry!” a voice called out, and Harry stopped, turning, to see that Lucifer was standing a little way behind him, having obviously followed Harry out of the nightclub.
“What?” Harry asked irritably.
“Harry,” said Lucifer, walking closer, hands nonchalantly in his pockets, “I didn’t do this just to irritate you, you know.” His voice was quiet, but earnest. Harry half-expected a comment about how ‘that was just a side benefit,’ but it didn’t come.
“Your actions have the same effect, no matter what your intentions were,” said Harry, not at all appeased.
Lucifer stopped where he was, and regarded Harry with a considering gaze.
“Someday,” the Devil said eventually, “you’ll understand that sometimes, you just have to do what works for you, regardless of everyone else, because the alternative is to find yourself losing who you are. I know you don’t understand right now, but this was something I had to do.”
“Despite the fact that I have to bear the consequences,” said Harry.
Lucifer just shrugged.
“Well, thanks for acting like the adult in this situation,” Harry snapped back, and relocated himself back to Hogwarts. He was a little afraid the Devil would follow him; but as the minutes passed, there was no sign of Lucifer, and Harry relaxed slightly. He wasn't entirely sure whether he was relieved, or disappointed that he hadn't been followed.
Harry settled himself down on the castle rampart, tucked his feet under him, and glowered.
Well, he’d tried talking to his father, and that had gone nowhere. The tugging beneath Harry’s breastbone was worse than ever. That left only one course of action: to do as Lucifer had suggested, and visit Hell.
Harry let out a long, angry exhalation, and rested his head on his knees. He’d go tomorrow, he thought, after classes were finished. He was too angry to go right now – if he did, he’d be in a smiting sort of mood, and that wouldn’t bode well for anyone concerned, and Harry might regret his actions later.
Decision made, Harry sat there for a long while, letting his temper cool in the gentle night breeze. It wasn’t until he was calm again that he returned to bed, this time to sleep.
Harry lay there for a long time, struggling to get to sleep against the infernal tugging sensation, before finally falling into an exhausted doze early in the morning.
This chapter was so hard for me to write, for some reason. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten this story, even if it takes me ages to update. The next chapter is already partly written, so hopefully it won't take me too long to write a little more of it and finish it.
ETA: This isn't going to be a long fic like the last one, just so you guys know. It'll probably come out a lot shorter than the first fic.
Harry spent most of the next day in a terrible mood. Hermione and Ron exchanged glances over breakfast, and by tacit agreement, left him alone after that. The only one, in fact, who was brave enough to approach Harry despite his mood was Luna Lovegood.
Harry was eating lunch in the Great Hall when Luna plonked herself down at the seat opposite, and looked at him with large blue eyes.
“You really are in a bad mood today, aren’t you?” she observed.
Harry had been friends with Luna ever since her first year, when Harry had helped find her things after they had been stolen by her housemates, and had later put the fear of Harry Potter into them when they continued to steal her things. The funny thing was, Luna had somehow known from their first meeting that Harry wasn’t precisely a wizard, but a being of power – she’d seen Harry use his abilities to find her missing shoes, and that was all it took.
Where most wizards were oblivious to, or rationalised away Harry’s powers, Luna had immediately understood that she was dealing with something somewhat like the mysterious beings she’d read about in her fairy tales, albeit a rather more benevolent one than those featured in most of the stories. Luna had been careful around Harry, at first – although always polite – but it hadn’t taken them long to become good friends. Luna was the only one whom Harry knew for certain believed him about the whole Antichrist thing.
Now, Harry felt his mood lift a tiny bit at Luna’s presence, but scowled all the same.
“Hell is calling me,” he said irritably. “It’s uncomfortable.”
Luna only looked at him with large unblinking eyes, and Harry sighed.
“My father left Hell, and the firmament of Hell wants me to rule,” he explained. “Which means I’m going to need to go down there tonight and sort things out.”
“Oh,” said Luna. “Does that make you the new Prince of Hell, then?”
She seemed undisturbed by the idea that Harry was, apparently, becoming the Prince of Hell by default.
“Apparently,” he said, and sighed. “I don’t want to be, but it looks like I don’t have a choice.”
“We always have choices,” said Luna.
“If you can call choosing between ruling Hell and living in constant irritation while demons meddle with humanity a choice,” Harry grumbled.
Luna smiled serenely.
Harry gave her a look. Luna patted his arm.
“I’m sure you’ll make the best of things,” she said vaguely. “You usually land on your feet.”
“Yes, but that’s because I usually meddle with the fabric of reality,” Harry argued, but Luna was no longer listening; instead she was helping herself to the food spread out across the Gryffindor table.
Harry gave a despondent sigh, and slumped in his seat.
“You could be more sympathetic, you know,” he said.
“I could be,” Luna agreed. “But you’ll come out on top, the way you always do. And I’m sure having things not go your way for once will be good for you. Life is far too easy for you, you know.”
Harry scowled again, but couldn’t deny her words.
“I hate it when you make sense,” he complained. Luna only smiled placidly at him, and with a final grumble, Harry helped himself to some lunch.
The rest of the day went by far too slowly, but finally, classes finished for the day, leaving Harry free to do as he liked.
With a long sigh, Harry’s robes were once again replaced by a smart dress shirt and trousers, and Harry prepared to descend into Hell. Taking a deep breath, Harry stepped downwards – and the ground seemed to part around him, opening into a deep fissure in the earth.
Harry took another step forward, knowing that his foot would come down on something solid, even though there was nothing there but air. Sure enough, his foot rested firmly on nothing at all. Harry took another step, and then another, and with each step he descended into the abyss, until there was nothing around him but darkness.
Harry kept on walking downwards: down, down, down, until finally, far below, there was a dim glow. As Harry got closer, the glow grew brighter, and Harry could faintly hear the sound of distant screams. Every now and then a soul shot past Harry, screaming all the way down until it was out of sight, swallowed up by the glow. Harry didn’t let this deter him. He continued to move downwards until he was within the fabric of Hell itself.
The firmament of Hell manifested itself as a fiery pit, filled with tortured souls who screamed and pleaded for mercy, while demons flitted around, going about their business tormenting the wicked. Musak played faintly. A long queue stretched from one end of Hell to the other. And something going on deep in the foundations of Hell was making the rest of it tremble.
Harry moved down through the different levels of Hell, not allowing the sights and sounds to sway his determined approach (no matter how disturbing those sights and sounds were), until he got to the deepest level of all, following the source of the vibrations. And there he was forced to stop, because there was a battle was going on.
The most ancient and powerful of the demons were at war, and it was bloody. Harry knew that what he saw of Hell right now wasn’t what Hell really was. In the same way, Harry knew that there weren’t really demons going at each other with swords and maces; part of Harry was translating a battle far beyond human comprehension into things his eyes and brain easily understood. Harry knew that was he was seeing wasn’t really blood, either, but the manifestation of damage to ethereal beings who were far beyond flesh and bone.
But as Harry watched, it certainly looked like a bloody battle, with weapons that were positively medieval; demons were bellowing with anger and charging one another, trampling fallen comrades and foes alike. The stench of spilled blood was heavy in the air, and the ground shook with the impact as demon after demon fought.
Harry stepped forward, a shining sword materialising in his hand. Harry took a deep breath, and bellowed, “STOP!”
His bellow was amplified by the firmament of Hell, carrying with it all the power of Hell’s commander. With Harry’s shout ringing painfully in their ears, the feuding demons had no choice but to stop.
Silence fell, as thousands of faces turned towards Harry’s. Forms that were ghastly beyond human imagining filled the deepest level of Hell, the demons’ essential natures twisted and deformed by millennia of evil deeds. They may have begun their existence as angels, but there was nothing angelic about the beings currently staring at Harry with astonishment and loathing.
It was Beelzebub who spoke first.
“You,” he said, his voice buzzing like a thousand angry bees.
Harry smiled. The more intelligent demons recognised that smile, and cringed.
“Me,” Harry agreed, strolling casually forward, sword still in his hand. “I hear you lot have been making trouble, planning to meddle with Earth and whatnot.”
“It is our right as demons to meddle,” spat Beelzebub.
Harry never lost his smile.
“Not anymore, it’s not,” he disagreed – and all of the weapons on the battlefield simply disappeared.
There was a roar of disbelief and protest from the assembled demons, and Harry shouted, “SHUT UP!”
There was an abrupt and angry silence as the demons found that they were no longer able to speak, as all of the power of Hell made itself known.
“I’m rather annoyed, you know,” Harry said, his voice carefully conversational. “If it’d been up to me, I would have stayed well out of things, and you could all have fought down here to your heart’s content, and I wouldn’t have cared. But none of you were happy to stop there, were you? Oh no, you couldn’t just aim to rule an entire realm, you had to make plans to meddle with my planet and my people. Which means I had to come down here and assert rulership over a realm I didn’t really want to rule at all, like I don’t already have my hands full with looking after Earth. So like I said – annoyed.”
Harry smiled pleasantly.
“Things are going to go a little differently around here, from now on,” he said.
And no matter how much some of the demons hated him in that moment, there wasn’t one who disbelieved him.
“Oh, and Beelzebub,” said Harry. “Consider yourself demoted.”
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as all that.
While Harry didn’t hesitate to use his newfound powers as the current ruler of Hell against anyone who stepped out of line, it was astonishing how many demons refused to believe he even had those powers. Despite Harry’s threatening display of power on the battlefield, many of the older, more stubborn – and frankly, more stupid demons continued to plot against him, acting in defiance of Harry’s new orders.
Time in Hell ran differently than it did on Earth, and Harry was in Hell for a long time, putting down insurrections and rebellions against him. The smarter demons soon learned that just because he was younger than their previous ruler, didn’t make Harry any less fearsome. Harry could only hope that even the stupid ones would learn as well, with time.
Finally, it was a very irritated and very weary Harry Potter who ascended to Earth, approximately a day after he had left it - by Earth time, at least. Fortunately, Harry had left on a Friday night, and so he hadn’t missed any classes. Not that the teachers would have noticed, even if he had; but Harry never used his powers on his friends, and they were no doubt wondering where he had been for the last twenty-four hours. Things would only have been worse if Harry had missed classes, as well.
Harry reappeared in his dorm room, to find it empty; everyone else was downstairs in the common room, most likely. Harry didn’t bother to check. Instead, he changed into his pyjamas, climbed into bed, and for the first time in a while, slept without the tugging of the firmament of Hell trying to summon him.
Harry dreamed of blood and fire, but otherwise, his sleep was perfectly sound.
Kudos goes to Alexicon for suggesting that Harry was born from parthenogenesis. I liked that idea, and ran with it in this chapter.
The day of the first task of the TriWizard Tournament was bright and sunny. Harry was sitting in the arena stands, waiting for his friends, when someone sat down next to him. Harry glanced over to see who it was, and his eyes widened.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“The TriWizard Tournament is the premier wizarding event of the year,” Lucifer replied, grinning. He was wearing tailored robes in bottle-green with black accents, which made him look quite wizardly. “Why shouldn’t I be here?”
Harry simply gave Lucifer a look, one which said clearly, ‘pull the other one.’
“Alright,” Lucifer conceded, “maybe I simply wanted to spend time with my only son.” Lucifer smiled at Harry.
Harry didn’t buy it.
“Why now?” Harry pointed out suspiciously. “You never did before.”
“I was too busy running Hell before,” Lucifer responded reasonably, and Harry had to admit that it was a good excuse. “But now that’s your problem,” Lucifer finished with a grin.
Harry only looked at Lucifer sourly.
“Speaking of which, I’ve heard you’ve been having some issues,” Lucifer went on. “Were you aware that demons have been leaving Hell and coming to Earth in droves?”
Harry wasn’t. The information alarmed him.
“My source told me that they thought you might be too busy dealing with in-fighting to notice,” said Lucifer thoughtfully. “You should probably deal with that as soon as possible.”
“How?” Harry asked, frustrated at the thought of having yet another problem to deal with. “It’s not like Hell came with an instruction manual!”
“Calm down,” said Lucifer, putting a hand on Harry’s back. “You really don’t know?”
“Why would I?” asked Harry. “You might be my father, but I’m still only human.”
Lucifer gave him an odd look.
“You’re really not,” said the Devil. “Harry, you were born through parthenogenesis.”
“Partheno-what?” Harry asked.
“Parthenogenesis,” said Lucifer, with unexpected patience. “It’s different for ethereal beings, of course, but basically it’s a form of asexual reproduction, in which a single parent produces offspring on their own.”
“Oh,” said Harry weakly. Well, that answered a question he’d long wanted the answer to – who was his mother? Harry had never considered the fact that he might not have one.
“So you’re not really human at all,” continued Lucifer. “Well, culturally, perhaps, but your nature is that of an ethereal being. Essentially you’re a copy of me, even if you had a different upbringing.”
It took Harry a moment to absorb that information. On the surface it sounded absurd, but when Harry thought about it...
“If I’m basically a copy of you,” said Harry slowly, “then why don’t I look more like you?”
“Because they’re just bodies,” said Lucifer. “They have nothing to do with our real selves. I made your body myself, before I put you in it. I thought you’d appreciate it if there were a few differences between our bodies, so that you didn’t look like my clone.”
“I’m not sure I believe you,” said Harry. “I mean, we’re quite different people. Different goals in life, for a start.”
“Nature vs. nurture,” said Lucifer, looking contemplative. “You and I have lead very different lives so far, Harry. That’s bound to have an effect, you know.”
Harry continued frowning. While Lucifer had offered logical arguments, Harry wasn’t sure he liked what Lucifer was saying. Not that Harry disliked Lucifer, exactly – disliking him was too difficult. But he certainly didn’t approve of the Devil, that was for sure.
Harry didn’t want to think that he was like Lucifer at all.
“Besides,” Lucifer mused, unaware of Harry’s train of thought, “even with parthenogenesis, small mutations tend to occur, so that the offspring aren’t exact copies of the parent. Perhaps that happened in your case.”
“What does it matter?” asked Harry irritably, getting fed up with the disturbing topic. “I’m me, however I got that way.”
Lucifer grinned at him, wide and friendly.
“True enough,” said the Devil. “But to go back to my original point, I would have thought that knowledge of how to control Hell would be instinctive.”
Harry only shrugged. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know how to control Hell, even if it did, at this point, kind of seem to be his job. He opened his mouth to say so: however, at that moment there was a shout of “Harry!” and he looked down to see Ron and Hermione clambering up the stands towards him.
Harry tried not to wince at their unfortunate timing.
“Harry, who is this?” Hermione asked, her eyes narrowed as her gaze darted between Harry and Lucifer, cataloguing the numerous similarities between them.
“This is a relative of mine,” said Harry, before Lucifer could say anything. “On my mother’s side,” Harry added, just to be safe.
“But I thought your mother was muggleborn, without any wizarding relatives?” Hermione asked suspiciously.
“They didn’t really know about each other, “Harry said quickly. “Their branches of the family aren’t very close.”
“I see.” Hermione was still giving Harry a worryingly piercing stare; but after a moment, she transferred her stare to Lucifer. “I’m Hermione Granger, and this is Ron Weasley. We’re friends of Harry’s.”
“Lucifer Morningstar,” Lucifer said with a grin. “How do you do?”
Hermione turned an exasperated look on Harry.
“Harry, I swear, if you make the Antichrist joke one more time–”
“Why on Earth do you think he’s joking?” Lucifer asked curiously. “Surely you’ve noticed that Harry isn’t precisely an ordinary wizard.”
“Of course I have!” Hermione looked irritated. “But he can’t be the Antichrist. It’s absurd.”
Lucifer raised his eyebrows at Harry, who only shrugged.
“It’s annoying, but I’d prefer annoying to rejection,” Harry explained briefly.
Hermione swelled wrathfully at having her actions described as ‘annoying’.
“Hello Hermione, Ronald,” Luna interrupted, joining them. “Hello Harry.” She turned curious eyes on Lucifer. “Who’s this?”
“I’m Lucifer,” said the Devil cheerfully. He, at least, looked like he was enjoying the conversation.
Luna blinked once, and looked from him to Harry.
“So you’re Harry’s father,” she said. “I see the likeness. Harry has your eyes.”
Hermione made a sound like an angry tea-kettle, and Ron edged away from her in alarm.
“Look, Hermione–” Ron began uneasily.
“You are not the Antichrist!” Hermione said angrily. Her loud voice easily reached the people sitting nearby, making heads turn in their direction. “This man is not the Devil, and he is not your father!”
Luna gave Hermione a look that was almost one of pity. Lucifer, meanwhile, was giving Harry a meaningful look.
Harry sighed in reluctant agreement, and the world around them froze. Only Harry, Lucifer, Hermione, Ron and Luna remained aware and in motion.
It took Hermione a moment to notice the silence. When she did she quickly looked around, and her mouth fell open as she saw people caught in mid-motion, time itself holding them in place.
“What –” she began, but Harry interrupted.
“Hermione,” he said quietly. “I’m the Antichrist.” He rolled his shoulders, and great white wings materialised at his shoulders – first one pair, then another and another, until six wings stretched away from Harry’s back. It only took a moment for the sword to materialise as well, and the golden crown that was always there in Harry’s imagination.
Hermione took a step back, and almost toppled off the step she was standing on into the row of people in front. It was Lucifer who reached out and snagged her wrist with one hand, pulling Hermione back to safety.
Hermione gasped and snatched her hand back the moment he let go, looking between Harry and the Devil with wide eyes.
Ron was gaping at Harry with an expression of goggle-eyed awe, while Luna looked at Harry with no more than mild interest.
After a moment Harry banished the wings, sword and crown back into nonexistence, and with a rush of noise normal time resumed.
Hermione and Ron started at the sound, still staring at Harry wide-eyed.
“Blimey, mate,” said Ron finally, coming out of his awe a little. “That’s wicked!”
Harry grinned a little at Ron’s inadvertent pun, noticing that Lucifer did the same.
But Hermione was staring at Harry with an expression that could only be described as disturbed.
“Hermione?” Harry asked.
Hermione shook her head.
“I – I need to think about this,” she stammered. And before Harry or the others could stop her, she was dashing down the stairs, away from them.
Harry felt himself sag a little at her reaction.
Luna sat next to him, and patted his shoulder.
“Hermione needs time, that’s all,” she said.
“Yeah,” said Ron. “Come on, Harry, it’s Hermione. She’ll come around.”
“You’re not scared?” Harry asked Ron.
Ron only shrugged philosophically.
“Well, I don’t know exactly what an Antichrist is,” he admitted, “but I know you, and you wouldn’t hurt us. I’m guessing it’s not supposed to be a good thing, though?”
“The Antichrist,” said Lucifer, “is the son of the Devil – that would be me – who rebelled against the One True God and attempted to overthrow Heaven. According to religious types, Harry is supposed to bring about the end of the world.”
“Oh.” Ron looked a little disconcerted. He looked to Harry. “But you’re not going to, right?”
“Of course not,” said Harry, a little indignantly.
Ron nodded, apparently satisfied.
“You’re my best mate,” he said. “If I can’t trust you, who can I trust?” He looked at Lucifer curiously. “You’re really Harry’s dad?”
“I am,” said Lucifer. He was regarding Ron with indulgent amusement. “Harry was swapped with the Potter child at birth.”
Ron nodded, accepting that.
“So you rebelled against Heaven – that’s where people go after they die, isn’t it?”
“Only if they’re good people. Otherwise they go to Hell,” Lucifer explained.
“So what do you do now?” Ron asked.
“I ran Hell for several thousand years,” said Lucifer dryly. “These days, however, I own a muggle nightclub.”
Ron’s eyes widened.
“You run a nightclub?” He sounded impressed. “Harry, your dad’s pretty cool.”
That surprised a laugh out of Harry, who shook his head.
“Only you, Ron.”
Lucifer grinned at Ron and Luna.
“So these are your friends,” he remarked to Harry. “I can see why you like them.”
Both Ron and Luna looked pleased by that. Harry looked at them, trying to gauge whether or not they were really as fine with Lucifer as they seemed to be. But Harry couldn’t sense any unease or perturbation in their souls: only fascination on Ron’s part, and mild interest on Luna’s.
Harry glanced back at Lucifer to find that the Devil was watching him. An amused little smile was on Lucifer’s lips, but Harry could see something more serious lurking behind his father’s expression.
So, with a sigh, Harry sat down again, sitting so that his body was turned towards Lucifer.
“What do you suggest I do about Hell, then?” Harry asked.
“Delegate,” Lucifer said promptly, while Ron and Luna listened in with varying degrees of interest and confusion.
“Easier said than done,” said Harry. “Half the senior demons keep rebelling against me, or undermining my orders. How am I supposed to know who to trust?”
“As it happens, a number of my demons are still loyal to me, even though I’ve abdicated. As my rightful heir, I have no doubt that they would be willing to support you. Put them in charge of running the day-to-day elements of Hell, and that will leave you free to deal with more pressing problems, such as the demons who have escaped to Earth.”
Harry frowned. While he wasn’t sure that he liked the idea, he had to admit, it was better than the system he was using at present. Trying to oversee every aspect of Hell personally and continue looking after Earth was impossible, and Harry knew that.
“Fine,” said Harry grudgingly. “Who would you recommend?”
Lucifer looked thoughtful.
“Belial, certainly. Asmodeus. Belphegor. Those three are all loyal to me personally, and will follow your orders, if you put them in charge.”
Harry opened his mouth to ask how sure Lucifer was of that, when a magically-amplified voice cut through the stands, announcing the approach of the first of the Triwizard champions.
Lucifer leaned forward to look down into the arena, where the dragons were, and where a tiny human figure was approaching one of the dragons warily. So Harry decided that his discussion with Lucifer could wait for another time. Little though Harry liked his father’s advice, he decided that he’d try it out anyway; after all, the worst that Lucifer’s suggested demons could do was betray him, and Harry had already dealt with a number of demons who had chosen to rebel against him, out of arrogance or misplaced pride. If Lucifer’s picks to run Hell turned out to be unreliable… well, Harry was no worse off than he’d been to start with.
So Harry settled down to watch the first task of the Triwizard Tournament – ignoring the fact that next to him, Lucifer was cheering for the dragons, rather than the champions – and told himself that for now, he had nothing to worry about.
So, most of this chapter was written about a year ago; I just had to finish it. No idea if I'll write more of this; I would love to, because it's one of my favourites, but we'll see. In the meantime... I figured that even if I don't write any more, you should get what I have written. So here's a chapter.
Even though Hermione was Harry’s oldest friend, he couldn’t help but worry about her reaction to the revelation that he was the Antichrist. Yes, Hermione knew him better than anyone, but… well, Harry was very conscious of the fact that she’d been brought up in a normal muggle family, with the particular perspective which that entailed. Hermione’s family might not be especially religious; but thousands of years of cautionary tales about the Devil had likely left their mark.
Ron, as a pureblood wizard, hadn’t known or cared much about theological concerns; but Hermione – who as a muggleborn, came from a society which had once burnt people at the stake for purportedly consorting with Lucifer – might care very much indeed.
Still, Harry told himself. Hermione would come around, or she wouldn’t, and there wasn’t much point in fretting over it until he knew one way or the other. Harry was pragmatic that way. All the same, he very much hoped that Hermione did come around, and wouldn’t hold his being the Antichrist against him. After all, it wasn’t as though Harry could very well stop being the Antichrist, was it? It was simply part of who he was.
After a very long two days, in which Hermione avoided him, and Harry began to think gloomily that maybe Ron was wrong and Hermione wouldn’t move past the revelation of who Harry was, Harry decided to go and visit Crowley and Aziraphale to cheer himself up.
Accordingly, Harry vanished from Hogwarts just before lunchtime, reappearing in London, his wizard robes exchanged for his preferred clothing. It took Harry barely a moment of concentration to locate his guardians: the two of them were at the Ritz, having one of their companionable lunches. Unnoticed by anyone around him, Harry vanished from where he was standing, reappearing inside the Ritz and making his way over to Crowley and Aziraphale’s table.
It was Aziraphale who noticed him first, giving Harry a small wave as he came up behind Crowley and took a seat at the table, which had suddenly gone from being a small table suitable for two people to a larger table capable of seating four.
Crowley and Aziraphale didn’t appear particularly startled by this change, too used to Harry using his powers while in their presence.
“My dear, what brings you here?” Aziraphale asked. “Not that we’re not happy to see you, of course – but shouldn’t you be in school?”
Harry slouched in his seat.
“It’s lunchtime,” he said. “What’s it matter if I eat lunch here, instead of there?” He didn’t bother to look up from the tabletop as he said it.
Aziraphale and Crowley exchanged a look. Then:
“Alright, kid. Come on, out with it,” said Crowley. “What’s got your knickers in a knot?”
“It’s a legitimate expression, angel!” Crowley defended himself, and Harry glanced at him and Aziraphale in mild amusement. For some reason, listening to the demon and the angel bicker always made Harry feel better: maybe it was the rapport the two so clearly shared, Harry wasn’t sure. All he knew was that as long as Crowley and Aziraphale were bickering like an old married couple, things couldn’t be too bad.
As Harry watched, Crowley and Aziraphale abandoned their argument, and their faces turned back towards Harry.
“It isn’t this ruling Hell, thing, is it?” Crowley asked. “Because I’d heard you went down there and took over.”
“Lucifer made it clear he wasn’t going back, and someone had to do something,” he said. “And the firmament of Hell kept tugging at me. Uncomfortable, it was. And it seemed the only way to do something about it was to go Downstairs and sort things out.”
“How did it go?” asked Aziraphale.
Harry sighed gloomily.
“Demons keep rebelling against me, and apparently a bunch of them have left Hell and come to Earth, or so Lucifer says.”
Both Crowley and Aziraphale stiffened.
“Hang on, Lucifer says?” asked Crowley.
Harry sighed a second time.
“We had a bit of a chat,” he admitted. “I went to that nightclub of his–”
“Nightclub?” Aziraphale repeated incredulously; evidently, he hadn’t heard where Lucifer had gone when he left Hell.
“–and tried to convince him to go back to ruling over Hell, not that it worked. Anyway, a few days ago he turned up to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament and gave me some advice about how to reign over Hell. Said something about wanting to spend time with me. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t lying, either,” Harry added. “Not that I can really tell, with him.”
Crowley and Aziraphale stared at Harry.
“Him Downstairs showed up to the Triwizard Tournament,” said Crowley slowly. “And things didn’t end in disaster?”
“He gave you advice about reigning over Hell?” Aziraphale was frowning. “Are you sure it would be wise to take it?”
“Even if his advice is useless, it’s not like I’m any worse off, the way things are. He gave me the names of some demons I should delegate responsibilities to. Said they were loyal to him and would respect the fact that I’m his rightful heir, basically.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “And I have to do something. There’s no way I can keep running Hell by myself and look after Earth, at the same time. Even I can’t pay attention to everything at once.”
The angel and the demon exchanged looks.
“It’s probably not a bad idea to follow his advice,” said Crowley. “Assuming that the demons he picked really are as loyal as he thinks. But be careful. If he’s helpful, it’s usually because he’s up to something.”
“You mean like ensuring he doesn’t have to return to Hell?” Harry asked dryly.
“Maybe, maybe not,” said Crowley. “I’m just saying be careful, is all. Then there’s the fact that he wants to spend time with you. Any idea why?”
Harry shook his head.
“Don’t know if it’s some kind of fatherly instinct, or just that he finds me interesting.”
“I wouldn’t trust his fatherly instincts any further than I could throw him,” said Crowley darkly.
“So not at all, right?”
“Exactly. Who ever heard of a demon with a fatherly instinct?”
Aziraphale cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Well, perhaps not a demon, but when it comes to angels, there is a precedent,” he said. “Remember the Grigori, Crowley.”
For a moment there was silence. The Grigori – the Watchers – had been a group of angels stationed on Earth, given the responsibility of closely watching over humanity. Unfortunately, the Watchers had gotten a little too close to some of their human charges, and produced offspring with them – the monstrous and powerful Nephilim, who had later been destroyed in the Great Flood after causing all kinds of trouble to humans, demons, and angels alike.
But the Watchers had loved their children, monstrous though they were, and had tried to protect them from Heaven’s wrath as best they could. Some of the Watchers had even turned on their fellow angels, all for the sake of the Nephilim. Harry knew this, and while he didn’t know how the events had affected Aziraphale and Crowley specifically, he guessed that the entire affair had been rather unpleasant.
“I still don’t trust him,” Crowley said, breaking the silence.
“Well, of course not,” said Aziraphale. “He is the Devil. Trusting him would be foolhardy, at the very least. I’m only saying that perhaps his interest in Harry isn’t as sinister as it might appear?” He looked to Harry hopefully, for either confirmation or denial of this hypothesis.
Harry looked thoughtful.
“Maybe,” he allowed. “I get the impression that it’s not often he finds something that interests him, these days. I can understand how he might want to spend time with interesting people. It’s just a little worrying, is all. But I don’t think he actually means me any harm, aside from wanting me to take over Hell.”
“That’s a first,” Crowley muttered, but fell silent as a waitress approached with their meals.
When she was gone, it was Aziraphale who said, “Well, you know your own business best, of course, but do be careful, Harry.”
“I’ll try,” Harry promised. He hesitated, and added, “Hermione knows I’m the Antichrist, now, by the way.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale asked, in some surprise. “How did that go?”
“She hasn’t spoken to me in days,” Harry responded glumly.
“Tough luck,” said Crowley, with what passed for sympathy for the demon.
“Thanks,” said Harry. He picked up his knife and fork, and began to eat his lunch. Crowley and Aziraphale exchanged glances, but began eating their meals as well.
“You know, I’m sure Hermione will come around,” Aziraphale said a few minutes later, after a silence in which everyone had been eating. “She has been your friend for three years, after all. That’s a long time, by human standards – particularly at your age.”
“I know,” said Harry. He didn’t feel particularly reassured, but the angel and demon’s attempts to comfort him had cheered him a little, even if he was still glum about Hermione not talking to him. “But what if she doesn’t? That’s a possibility, too.”
Neither Aziraphale nor Crowley knew what to say to that. Harry finished eating his lunch, and stood.
“I should be getting back,” he said. “But – thanks. For listening.”
He disappeared without waiting for a reply.